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Steps to start and manage a Masjid in US
These guidelines are intended to help a group of Muslims establish a new Masjid or streamline the operations of an existing Masjid. They are not to be construed as definitive answers and every group is encouraged to consult with the experts who have gained experience running a successful Masjid around the area.
- Name of Islamic Center
Not trying to suggest a name but it is advisable that you do a little bit of research. Thinking globally and outside your area as to what your website name will be as that is how people may find you.
- Mission Statement
You need to articulate in the mission statement your vision of how you will serve the community. Think it of it as a sentence that may start like this “To serve the Muslim community by…”.
- Name of Officers
You need at least 3 officers even though one person may serve as all 3:
1- President/CEO/Chairman: the person ultimately in charge
2- Secretary: person in charge of keeping records, meeting minutes and all legal documents
3- Treasurer: managing the financials of the corporation
- What type of Corporation/Legal Entity
You can choose from “Inc.”, “LLC” or “Corp” style legal entities. You may want to check with a lawyer or CPA about which is best for you.
- Legal Address
You can have a legal address that is different from where the Masjid will be. The legal address can be a PO Box or that of any of the officers of the organization.
While you can add or change logo anytime, it is still best practice to record your logo at the same time you are registering your corporation
You need to define the guidelines clearly in your bylaws on how members are added to your organization and their voting rights. Members can be as small as the initial founders or open to the general public or following any guidelines you like. We will discuss membership in details later Insha Allah. However, this point is highlighted here as a reference it is needed in your articles of incorporation. A simple as one sentence as “The Corporation shall have members” may suffice.
- Articles of Incorporation and Bylaws
There is a clear distinction between articles of incorporation and bylaws. The articles of incorporation contain general information about a corporation, such as the name and location of the business. Bylaws, on the other hand, contain rules and regulations and used to establish the roles and duties of the company’s directors and officers.
The articles of incorporation are usually placed in a very small document (samples included) while bylaws may span many pages of great details (recommended).
You need to articulate your vision and founding principles in details in your bylaws. This defines who you are. If you are planning to run a masjid through elected Board Members, you also need to define your membership rules and your election guidelines among many other things.
It is vital, based on our study, to define the role of the Imam in your bylaws no matter what management role the Imam plays. There are many management models to choose from that are included later in this booklet.
Contacting a Lawyer
Once you have created the above document it is recommended once again to contact a lawyer who will help you not only register your corporation but also file for your tax exempt status (501C3).
Register Incorporating in the US is easy and one may be tempted to do the incorporating him/herself to save few hundred dollars. However, the IRS website clearly states that incorporating a non-profit organization seeking a tax exempt status (here and thereafter called 501C3) must be done by a professional incorporating counsel.
There are many legal factors that must be done at incorporating times to be able to easily obtain a 501C3 exemption and we will discuss these factors individually
Getting your Tax ID
Once you receive approval from the state then you can contact the IRS to get your corporate tax ID.
Difference between Non-Profit, Tax Exempt (501C3) and Sales Tax Exempt
You can be a non-profit organization (and it is important to record your organization as such) but not necessarily be tax exempt. You must file a 501C3 application within a short time after you incorporate to obtain your tax exempt status. Please note that this process may take months well beyond the initial tax period.
You cannot issue donation receipts to individual donors to claim as tax deductible donations until you receive approval from the IRS on your 501C3 application.
Many people confuse being tax exempt for federal and states income taxes from being exempt from sales tax when you purchase items at department stores. These are not the same and being income federally tax exempt does not mean you can purchase goods without paying a sales tax. Please consult with a tax advisor to learn all the rules.
The following paragraph is extracted from California Tax Service Center Website (http://www.taxes.ca.gov/exemptbus.shtml) which has a link to this PDF file: http://www.taxes.ca.gov/exemptbus.shtml
“Religious organizations’ sales and purchases of goods and merchandise other than food are generally taxable. If your religious organization holds or participates in fundraising events where you sell goods and merchandise, such as auctions, festivals, bazaars, firework stands, swap meets, or craft shows, your sales of nonfood items are generally taxable. Tax also applies when you sell from a church bookstore, from tables in your church at events, by Internet, or by mail order.”
Establishing Bank Accounts
It is highly recommended that you have separate bank accounts for the type of functions you have. This recommendation is based on the study that we undertook. I would recommend at least 2 accounts:
1- Operation account for rent, utilities, salaries, maintenance and all operational expenses
2- Sadaqah/Zakah account to track donations to distribute to the poor
A Website for your Masjid
A URL is what generally starts with www.. You may invest in both “.com” and “.org” suffixes and have them point to the same website. A Masjid website should be designed and developed by a professional web developer. The website must contain information about Islam along with “Contact Us” form. Generally a good website of a masjid haveupdated Iqamah Timings, Calender for Masjid Events, Programs and Donations Links. It is highly recommended for Masjid Administration that they should spend some time to investigate all the tools available to automate operation via their website as much as possible.
Social Media for your Masjid
The older generation of immigrants like me may not appreciate the value of Facebook until we talk to our adult children. Having a Facebook and Twitter page and linking your website to them is a great tool to reach the younger generation. I would even recommend that you put a young sister in charge of setting it up and posting your events.
Email Distribution and Communication
Another topic that shall be covered in greater details but it is very necessary to decide early is whether you want public groups such as yahoo and gmail or a privately managed group that you maintain yourself. You can check with your website hosting company to see if they offer group management as well.
It is also important to note here that communicating with your community should be a two way street where they have the ability to respond to your emails or send questions. You can and should keep their responses and requests private of course.
Use latest technologies
Today, the majority of masjid leadership all across North America isstruggling with generating revenue, stream lining the process and building trust. Studies has shown the trends that all these problems are due to spending numerous hours on paper work or out dated tools in managing various operations rather than utilizing latest technologies that not only automates and improve all operations of a non-profit but also provide them a platform for community engagement. This is sobering news for many, especially for masjid leadership who are attempting to do now are finding ways to optimize their masjid so they can focus on creating a sustainable community. With the lack of formal or informal training in managing a masjid or a non-profit organization for that matter, masjid leadership’s attempt to run a masjid properly has hit roadblocks. This has created a vacuum in which third-party entities are trying to fill. One such company leading the charge in changing the masjid management landscape is literally automating all processes within the masjid so leadership can focus on creating valuable services for their attendees. MOHID™ Masjid Management Solutions, a company based out of Illinois, is blazing a path for masjid management optimization all across North America.
When was the last time that your masjid did strategic planning? Never? 5 years ago? A masjid should do strategic planning at least every five years. Strategic planning is absolutely necessary because periodically any organization needs to step back and re-assess itself and re-formulate its direction and priorities. The Prophet Muhammad (saaws) said, “Allah loves, when one of you does something, that it is done with excellence.” Excellence for a masjid entails good planning. The beginning of the year is a good time to consider arranging to do strategic planning for your masjid. To get a firmer grasp of...02.
These guidelines are intended to help a group of Muslims establish a new Masjid or streamline the operations of an existing Masjid. They are not to be construed as definitive answers and every group is encouraged to consult with the experts who have gained experience running a successful Masjid around the area. Name of Islamic Center Not trying to suggest a name but it is advisable that you do a little bit of research. Thinking globally and outside your area as to what your website name will be as that is how people may find you. Mission Statement You...